The Fight Between Juan Marichal and John Roseboro

This is the San Francisco Chronicle’s account of how Juan Marichal came to hit Johnny Roseboro with his bat on August 22, 1965, in a Giants-Dodgers game at Candlestick in the middle of a tight pennant race:

The bat-swinging melee followed after the Dodgers had scored single runs in the first and second inning and Marichal had flattened Dodger shortstop Maury Wills when Marichal came to the plate. Koufax, now 21-5, whipped a called strike past him and then came high and inside on his next pitch. On Roseboro’s return throw to Koufax the ball ticked Marichal’s ear and Juan turned and appeared to say something to the catcher.

Manager Herman Franks said Juan told him he asked Roseboro, “Why did you do that?” and nothing more. In any event, the bad blood between these ancient rivals erupted and Johnny took a step toward Marichal, who hit the enraged Roseboro with his bat.

Koufax came down off the mound and Giant third base coach Charlie Fox dashed into the vortex of this violent cyclone, each trying to restrain his man as the crowd went out of its mind and the entire rosters of both teams spewed onto the field.

Plate umpire Shag Crawford, the bravest man on the field and caught in the middle of this violence, grabbed the now-berserk Marichal and hauled him to the ground as Dodgers furiously tried to get to Juan and Giants just as furiously tried to pull him away.

But before the Dominican righthander went down he lashed out at Roseboro with his bat and crashed it against the side of Johnny’s head, opening a wound from which poured a flow of blood. . . .

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The one Giant who was not with his group was captain Willie Mays. He rushed over to the stricken Roseboro, perhaps his best friend in baseball, and tried to push him away. At one point Willie, now with his uniform spattered with the blood of his friend, placed his head gently on Roseboro’s chest and cried, “Johnny, Johnny, I’m so sorry.”

Marichal eventually was hauled to the lip of the Giant dugout, Mays still restraining the enraged Roseboro, and police came down out of the stands. Juan was thrown out of the game and Roseboro had to leave, a blood-soaked towel pressed against his bleeding head. . . .

[After retiring two batters Koufax walked Jimmy Davenport and Willie McCovey, and Mays hit the first pitch of his at-bat] over the centerfield fence between the 365 and 410 markers, and crashed above the wall of the bleachers and into the temporary red seats at Candlestick.

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The Los Angeles Times account said:

“Earlier in the game, Marichal had decked Maury Wills and Ron Fairly the second time they came to bat after getting hits the first trip [in the first inning]. Koufax ‘retaliated’ with a token fast ball that sailed far over Mays’ head in the second inning.”

The Marichal-Roseboro fight delayed the game 14 minutes. The Giants won, 4-3, with Masanori Murakami getting a save by retiring Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam with two on in the ninth, and Ron Herbel getting the win by pitching 5 1/3rd innings after the Marichal ejection.

Here’s Juan Marichal’s statement the next day on clubbing Johnny Roseboro with his bat:

“First of all, I want to apologize for hitting Roseboro with my bat. I am sorry I did that. But he was coming toward me, with his mask in his hand, and I was afraid he was going to hit me with his mask, so I swung my bat. If he had only said something, I would not have swung. I hit him once, and I am sorry.

“I think the anger started on Friday night. On his  last time at bat in that game, Maury Wills was awarded first base for catcher’s interference. Our team thought Wills deliberately stepped back, forcing Tom Haller to tip Wills’ bat with his glove. So when Matty Alou came to bat in the next inning, he did the same thing, but the plate umpire, Doug Harvey, did not award him first base. Then, Roseboro yelled over at our dugout, ‘If this stuff keeps up we’re going to get one of you guys and get him good–right in the ear.’ The umpire must have heard this. And later, Roseboro repeated it to Orlando Cepeda. That is why I want him present when I meet Warren Giles.

“When I came to bat on Sunday, the first pitch was a perfect strike. The second one was a little inside. Johnny Roseboro deliberately dropped the ball so he could get behind me. Then he threw the ball back to Koufax real hard–nobody ever throws the ball back to the pitcher that hard–and it ticked my ear. I might expect Koufax to throw at me but I did not look for someone to throw at me from behind me. Then I turn around and I say, ‘Why did you do that?’ He did not say a word. He just took off his mask, and came toward me. I was afraid he was going to hit me with his mask, so I hit him with my bat. I am sorry but many times our players on the Giants are hit by pitches and sometimes hurt, and nobody says anything then.”

Oddly enough, that same day, August 24, the Chronicle Sporting Green led off its front page with a picture of San Francisco longshoreman Elmer Rush knocking out Texan Tod Herring in the fourth round of a heavyweight fight at Civic Auditorium. It’s apparently a coincidence, not a joke:

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A follow-up in the L.A. Times said:

According to trainer Bill Buhler, Roseboro had a two-inch gash sustained above the forehead which was closed with butterfly stitches. “He had a knot in the middle of his skull that it would take your whole hand to cover,” Buhler said.

Roseboro was taken to the hospital for observation, but he was on the [Dodgers'] plane when it took off for the East [after the S.F. series ended].

“They can thank Mays that there wasn’t a real riot out there,” spoke up Lou Johnson, the Dodger outfielder who raced in from left field to get into the fight. “If it wasn’t for Willie Mays it could have been a lot worse. Willie did a hell of a job stopping the battle.”

The next day, Roseboro said: “There’s a knot on my head and my right hand is sore, but I’ve taken so many pills there’s no way I could have a headache.”

Here’s a Sports Illustrated article on the fight and the series it took place in, and here’s the San Francisco Chronicle taking a look at the fight 40 years later. A recent interview of Marichal by Bob Costas talks about the fight and what led up to it at some length.

Also, in James S. Hirsch’s bio of Mays, he quotes Roseboro saying somewhere, probably in his own autobiography, that when Marichal hit him, “I forgot all the fancy fighting I’d ever learned and went after him as if it was an alley fight. . . . I didn’t see anything clearly. It was all confusion. My head didn’t hurt much, but I had blood all over me and could see I was still bleeding. I was mad that he had hit me with a bat and mad that I’d only gotten in one blow, which I didn’t think had hurt him. As Marichal ran toward the dugout, I chased him.” That was when Mays got Roseboro under control and took him into the Dodgers dugout.

Roseboro died in 2002, 37 years after the fight. At the memorial service, Marichal said Roseboro’s “forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life . . . When I became a Dodger player, John told all the Dodger fans to forget what happened that day. It takes special people to forgive.” When the New York Times wrote Roseboro’s obituary, it said:

The previous Friday night, Maury Wills, the Dodgers’ shortstop, hit the glove of the Giants’ catcher, Tom Haller, on a backswing, and in the next inning, the Giants’ Matty Alou hit Roseboro’s glove on a swing. Roseboro believed that Alou was deliberately trying to hit his bare hand. . . .

While Marichal was batting in the third inning, Roseboro whizzed the ball close to Marichal’s head as he returned a pitch delivered by Koufax. Then Roseboro, still wearing his mask, moved toward Marichal, who responded by unleashing at least two overhead swings of his bat, hitting Roseboro on the head. The attack opened a bloody two-inch gash and raised a large lump. Roseboro grabbed Marichal, and the players poured from both benches in a scuffle that lasted 15 minutes.

Marichal, who was ejected from the game, apologized the next day but said that Roseboro had nicked his ear on the return throw to Koufax and that he thought Roseboro was going to hit him with his mask.

“I think he was scared and he flipped the panic button,” Roseboro said the next day.

Marichal was suspended for eight playing dates and fined $1,750 by the National League president, Warren Giles. He missed two chances to make starting appearances, something that might have cost the Giants the pennant since they finished two games behind the Dodgers.

Roseboro returned to the lineup only three days after the attack, but he sued Marichal later that year for $110,000 in damages. The case was settled in February 1970, with Roseboro reportedly receiving $7,500. . . .

After years of bitterness, Roseboro and Marichal appeared together occasionally at old-timers’ games and golf tournaments.

“Our friendship is very good,” Marichal said in 1990, on the 25th anniversary of the bat attack.

Roseboro told The Los Angeles Times on that occasion that he had begun speaking to Marichal in the early 1980s because he felt the violent episode was keeping Marichal — a winner of 243 games-out of the Hall of Fame unjustly.

“There were no hard feelings on my part, and I thought if that was made public, people would believe that this was really over with,” Roseboro said. “So I saw him at a Dodger old-timers’ game and we posed for pictures together and I actually visited him in the Dominican. The next year, he was in the Hall of Fame.

“Hey, over the years you learn to forget things.”

I happened to catch Ron Fairly, the Dodgers’ right fielder in this game, talking about the Dodgers-Giants rivalry in the ’60s and his view of this fracas. He said Orlando Cepeda came out of the Giants’ dugout with a bat, and L.A. base coach Danny Ozark, a big guy who’d been in World War II, threatened to knock him out if Cepeda didn’t drop it; Cepeda did drop it. Fairly also credited Willie Mays with helping calm everything down. Fairly didn’t say anything in the way of directing blame or criticizing Marichal, or anyone else.

[Look down at the comments for two accounts of this fracas from people who actually attended the game. If you're interested in the history of the L.A.-S.F. rivalry, I've dug up the Chronicle's coverage of the first L.A. Dodgers-S.F. Giants game, on April 15, 1958. Also, I've described a more serious assault with a bat that occurred the spring after Marichal-Roseboro, in May 1966, in Vancouver, B.C.]

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